State of World Population 2006

A Passage to Hope - Women and International Migration

image of State of World Population 2006

This year’s report focuses on the lives of migrant women. Every year millions of women working overseas send hundreds of millions of dollars in remittances back to their homes and communities. These funds go to feed and educate children, provide health care, build homes, foster small businesses and generally improve living standards for loved ones left behind. For host countries, the labour of migrant women is so embedded in the fabric of society that it goes virtually unnoticed. Migrant women toil in the households of working families, soothe the sick and comfort the elderly. They contribute their technical and professional expertise, pay taxes and quietly support a quality of life that many take for granted.

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A mighty but silent river: Women and migration

In a Thai factory just across the border from Myanmar, a young woman with a gently rounded face and wide eyes assembles costume jewellery for export to North America. Her name is Saokham and she earns 140 Thai Baht (about US$3.50) a day. In this part of the world, it is a respectable wage—particularly for someone who grew up living in abject poverty in a mountain village in Myanmar’s Shan Province. Although Saokham completed eight years of free schooling, she was unable to continue her education because her parents were too poor to pay her school fees. At the age of 14 she followed her older sister—who had left home two years earlier—to neighbouring Thailand. Today, she lives with her young husband in a community of fellow compatriots near the Myanmar border. “Living in Thailand, we have money for food and to spend. Life is convenient,” she says. “Back home we didn’t have any work except farm work.”

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